Tommy Wright primary bill signed into law by governor

The problem wasn’t that Farmville attorney John Marsden withdrew from the 50th District Virginia House Republican primary last year. It was when he did it and the issues that happened as a result. A bill written by current 50th District Del. Tommy Wright will stop that situation from happening again, as it was just signed into law over the Easter weekend by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. 

Before we go over the new law, let’s explain the situation that triggered it. In June 2023, Marsden issued a statement, saying he was withdrawing from the primary, as he felt he couldn’t serve if elected. 

“Over the last couple of weeks, with the recent events that have happened within the Republican Party, (they) make this decision unavoidable,” Marsden said in the statement. “Also, I cannot in good conscience serve alongside certain individuals who have recently secured the Republican nomination for Delegate in their respective districts.” 

Marsden didn’t name the people he refused to serve alongside or provide any further information about who they were or why.

But by that date, June 5, it was too late to shut down the primary. And as a result, the five counties in the 50th District ended up paying, in multiple ways. 

Breaking down the cost

The five counties in the district, including Charlotte, Lunenburg, Prince Edward, Mecklenburg and Halifax, ended up spending more than $50,000 on the primary. According to the Republican committees and the local registrars, Prince Edward County was the second highest, coming in at $23,000. Here in Charlotte County, the numbers were a bit smaller, as the registrar estimated it was between $6,000 to $10,000. Lunenburg County was slightly higher than Charlotte, at an estimated $11,500. In Halifax County, the primary cost between $13,000 to $15,000, the registrar said. The most was spent in Mecklenburg County, where the primary cost between $25,000 to $28,000.

They also had to recruit and man polling places on Election Day and help with early voting. All this for a one-person primary. And that’s what Del. Thomas Wright wanted to prevent from happening again, which is why he filed HB55 this session. 

Tommy Wright bill explained

It’s pretty simple. If a candidate withdraws within 45 days of a primary, leaving just one candidate unopposed, then that remaining person will be declared the party’s nominee and the primary will be canceled. And to be clear, this can’t be just someone announcing on television that they’re quitting or posting it online. The person withdrawing has to present a signed and notarized document to his or her county’s general registrar. The registrar then lets both the local electoral boards and the State Board of Elections know of the change. 

There is one qualifier. The new law doesn’t apply to presidential primaries, just primaries for state and Congressional seats. We’ll also have to wait a bit until this takes effect, as it’s delayed until Jan. 1, 2025.